Thursday, August 30, 2012

Three Doors Up

‘Look out of the window,’ said Maude. ‘Now.’

Maude was downstairs monitoring the girls. I could hear one of them crying and complaining incoherently about a crime committed by the other one. I was upstairs grabbing a minute put Brylcreem in my hair. It was one of those mornings when the smell reminded me of my father.

‘Have you looked?’

‘I’m looking, now.’

I was surprised to see that the third car in a funeral cortege was parked outside our house. My eyes followed the train of cars up to the hearse – as it was being filled with a coffin three doors up. Mourners and funeral professionals were milling around.

‘Oh.’ I said.

Three doors up is a rented house – tenanted by a couple in their forties for about six months. They could often be seen walking past the house with shopping bags – as they didn’t own a car. I did pass the time of day with them. Regrettably I never really took the time to engage them in neighbourly conversation.

Initially I wasn’t sure which one of them was dead.

‘Is it him, do you think?’ asked Maude.

I then saw ‘him’ getting into the first car. A large wreath emerged from the house with the name ‘JAQI’ at its centre.

‘Well it’s not him, he’s there.’ The upstairs window afforded me the better view.

‘Must be the woman, then’ called Maude from downstairs.

‘They’re fetching out a big wreath – it says ‘JAQI’. J,A,Q,I.’

‘Rather unorthodox spelling,’ suggested my wife.

I coughed and realised that I now have my father’s cough – he was virtually in the room.

‘Your daughters are out of control. Are you coming down any time soon? ‘

Friday, August 17, 2012

'Day Off'

‘You’re not having another day off. You’re coming with me and mother and the girls to feed the ducks at The People’s Park’.

The People’s Park always brings to mind communist China, but I remind myself that it is, in fact, in non-communist Ballymena.

‘How exactly, does a fifty mile round trip to help your father collect some mackerel constitute a ‘day off’?’

‘I’m sure that you both enjoyed your boys’ day out.’

I admitted (to myself) that I had enjoyed elements of it. I like driving Crawford’s bouncy jeep. It takes me back to the sensation of driving my first car – an original mini ‘city’. (I passed my driving test while working for Central Manchester Health Authority and drove a disused mini-van with free petrol from the ambulance station).

Crawford is also very good company and I sensed that he needed a day out. A full house, blending the infirm and the very young, was inclined to make Augusta a little ‘directive’. Earlier in the week, Crawford had entered the breakfast room in song – as he did every morning. Augusta pointed at a chair and commanded ‘Sit’.

‘She talks to me like I’m a bloody terrier,’ observed my father-in-law.

Good fresh mackerel are things to be shared between friends in Northern Ireland and they also make for a good excuse for a 50 mile round trip to reminisce a little.  Denver was delighted to see Crawford. I drank coffee while they finished off each other’s jokes and discussed the parlous form of the rugby club’s current first team.

‘I was on the verge,’ said Denver, ’of buying a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black to keep in for your visits.’

‘What stopped you?’ enquired Crawford.

‘Well they only had a big litre and a half bottle.’

‘Am I not worth that?’

‘It wasn’t a question of expense Crawford – I wasn’t sure you’d live long enough to finish it.’